Burned Out or Dry Fired Elements

Testing For Burned Out or Dry Fired Elements

When troubleshooting a residential electric water heater for incidents of either ‘No Hot Water’ or ‘Insufficient Hot Water,’ it is always a good idea to check the thermostat settings as well as the heating element(s) themselves.

To test for a burned out element, first turn off all electrical power to the water heater. Remove the cover panel(s) from the front of the heater and then disconnect the wires from the heating element terminals. Using a continuity tester, place one test probe on each of the element terminals. If there is no continuity, the element is defective and must be replaced. If there is continuity, proceed to the next step.

Place one test probe on one terminal of the element and one test probe to the element flange or tank shell to test for a grounded element. Repeat the test for the other element terminal. If either test shows continuity, the element is defective and must be replaced. Test any other elements, if applicable, in the same manner.

After these tests have been completed and any necessary elements replaced, reconnect terminal wires, replace cover panels, and make sure the tank is full of water before turning on power.

Before energizing the elements, be certain that the tank is completely filled with water by opening a hot water faucet. Once water flows from the hot water side of the faucet you ensure that all air has been purged from the tank and it is safe to energize the elements.

If the above procedure is not followed, the element may be partially submerged in water or, more likely, completely exposed in the ‘air pocket’ and will be dry fired in a matter of seconds. Dry fired elements can be identified by a melted sheath or coil or copper colored annealed sheath. Dry fired elements are not covered under warranty due to misuse and operation contrary to the installation instructions.

Water Softeners & Water Heaters

There are other elements in water besides H2O, such as calcium and magnesium. The concentration of these minerals depends on geographical location and the water source (municipality or a private well). A high concentration of these minerals is what commonly creates the condition known as "hard water."

Hard water can be a nuisance, clogging or corroding pipes and fixtures, thus ultimately impacting the comfort of your shower or bath.

The installation of a water softener is a common solution to this issue.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

A softener replaces the calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions.

The Problem

The exchange of calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions results in the water being more conductive. Higher conductivity of the water will cause the water heater's anode rod to deplete more rapidly. Once the anode rod is depleted, the tank is more susceptible to corrosion and may not be covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Routine inspection and replacement of the anode rod will extend the life of the water heater.

The Solution

Bradford White's operation manuals recommend the inspection of anode rods every two years. If using a water softener it is important to inspect the anode rod more frequently and to replace it if necessary.

The anode rod is a crucial part to ensure the longevity of a water heater.

Flood Damage and Water Heaters

The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) recommends that if a water heater is exposed to flood water, the unit should be replaced, not repaired.

Why Replace the Unit?

  • Safety devices can become compromised
  • In a gas unit, valves and controls will likely corrode; in an electrical unit, the thermostat and controls will likely corrode
  • Insulation surrounding the unit will be contaminated and will be nearly impossible to disinfect; insulation will take a long time to dry completely and may lead to corrosion of the tank from the outside
  • Prior to connecting the gas supply line to a gas fired water heater, ensure that the gas supply line does not have moisture/water or dirt/scale inside the gas line

Water Heater Stands

Water heater stands are a solution to keeping your water heater above potential flood waters. It will elevate the entire water heater in the event that the area does experience flooding.

New ICON Gas Valve

Introducing the New ICON Gas Valve

As part of Bradford White's commitment to delivering continuous product improvements, you will soon see a new version of the ICON gas valve on our residential and light duty commercial gas atmospheric vent water heaters.

The new version offers Bradford White customers significant advantages, without affecting the ease of installation or repair you've come to expect with the ICON.

Key features include:

  • Built Tough Cover Designed to protect internal components during transport and installation.
  • Ergonomic Control Knob Allows for precise temperature set point selection and ease of pilot lighting.
  • Easy-View LED Light Visible from standing position.
  • Intelligent Diagnostics An exclusive multicolor LED light diagnostic system.

        Green: Pilot on/normal burner operation

        Amber: Warning - Service recommended

        Red: Critical - Service required

  • Simplified Diagnostics Reduced number of error codes to streamline troubleshooting.
  • Service Compatibility The new control is backwards compatible and can be installed on existing Bradford White water heaters.

If you have any questions, or require additional information, please contact your Famous Supply team.

Who Creates Safety & Performance Standards?

UL (Underwriters Laboratories)

Establishes the minimum requirements for electric water heater safety.

  • UL174: Residential Electric Water Heaters⎯ 12kW and less
  • UL1453: Commercial Electric Water Heaters⎯ Greater than 12kW

ANSI (American National Standards Institute)

Establishes the safety and construction standards for gas products.

  • Z21.10.1: Residential Gas Water Heaters⎯ 75,000 BTU/hr. and less
  • Z21.10.3: Commercial Gas Water Heaters⎯ Greater than 75,000 BTU/hr.

DOE (Department of Energy)

EPCA was enacted in 1975, which then led to the first NAECA (National Appliance Energy Conservation Act) in 1987. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT92) covers commercial products.

ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers)

Sets the minimum requirements for overall efficiency of buildings with the exception of low-rise buildings.

  • ASHRAE 90.1B: Pertains to minimum efficiency of all water heaters installed in buildings.

Understanding ASME Requirements

What is ASME?

ASME stands for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Its purpose in the plumbing industry is to regulate the design and construction standards for commercial boilers and pressure vessels (water heaters and storage tanks).

Where is ASME required?

ASME certification is commonly required for job specifications in hospitals, schools, factories, and manufacturing plants. Please be aware that ASME requirements vary by state.


  • Vessels must be constructed of steel meeting ASME specifications built by an ASME certified welder.
  • Vessels must undergo a temperature and pressure test overseen by an ASME-certified inspector for a specified period of time.
  • Products must be built to ASME code at the factory, they cannot be “converted” in the field.
  • Products ship with a copy of the manufacturer’s ASME data report


Typically required on products with 1 or more of the following (varies by state):

  • Heat input of 200,000 BTU/Hr. (58kw) or higher
  • Water temperature of 210°F or above
  • Tank capacity of 120 gallons or more

This is one example of a seal or stamp that will appear on ASME approved products or their documentation. There are other versions depending on the type of ASME certification required.

Buy America(n) Letter Requests

Bradford White Corporation (BWC) often receives requests to confirm compliance with Buy America(n) provisions.

There is no single “Buy America(n)” requirement –there are numerous statutes with differing requirements. Therefore, to help us respond to these inquires quickly, please provide the following information with your initial request:

After BWC  has all of this information, we will work with the necessary personnel to confirm whether the product meets the criteria or not.

Please be aware that once we have this information, it may still take some time to respond.

  1. What specific Buy America(n) provision applies?
    1. Provide the name of the specific law and a link to the requirements.
  2. What BWC product(s) does this requirement apply to?
    1. Provide model number(s) and quantity
  3. Where will the product be installed?
    1. Provide city, state, and job name
  4. What government agency is funding the project?
    1. Provide specific federal, state, and/or local agency

Combustion Air Requirements

Why is it important to understand combustion air requirements?

Without the proper amount of combustion air, gas fired water heaters will not operate properly and can potentially be harmful.

Symptoms of lack of combustion air

  • Nuisance pilot outage
  • Back drafting
  • Tripping thermal reset
  • Yellow luminous flame
  • Soot/ carbon build up
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Discoloration at the bottom of non FVIR water heaters

Determining combustion air requirements

Confined spaces
A confined space is defined as a room having less than 50 ft. per 1000 BTU/Hr.
Reference National Fuel and Gas Code (NFGC), Chapter 9

Unconfined spaces
An unconfined space is defined as an area having 50 ft. or more per 1000 BTU/Hr.
Reference NFGC, Chapter 9

Requirements for installing a water heater in a confined space

Power direct vent/direct vent
A power direct vent/ direct vent water heater is drawing all combustion air from outside.

Provide adequate combustion air
Communicate directly with an adjacent enclosure or directly outdoors. If direct communication is not available, the use of ducting may be necessary.
Reference NFGC chapter 9 for formulas and requirements.

Key Takeaways from the industry’s Governing Bodies (3 of 3)

Reference the chart below as a tool to educate your customers about job spec requirements.

Remember that CSA GroupAHRI, & ETL all have websites that list products with their appropriate certifications.
(Feel free to contact the Product Department for website navigation assistance.)

Create Safety

Create Performance

Test Safety

Test Performance

These are large organizations with many responsibilities. This chart is designed to show how they relate to Bradford White Products.

AHRI outsources their efficiency testing to ETL and CSA

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